Posts Tagged ‘outreach’
Over the summer and into this fall, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to interact with library student employees. The bulk of our students work in Access Services and Archives & Special Collections. Currently, I only supervise the occasional intern and graduate assistant, but I am in the process of hiring one student employee to work on communication/outreach. I do work pretty closely with a few of the student employees in Access Services, though. They help me with making copies & assembling handouts, posting signage around campus during down-times at the Circulation Desk, assisting with events, etc. I would honestly be lost without them (thank you)!!
Due to our renovation transition, I have been able to forge a new bond with the public services student employees. We have done a few training sessions with them to solicit feedback about how the temporary library is working from their perspective, gather ideas on how to publicize our services and new locations, and help them with referring students to the librarians who are now distributed across campus. Overall, I have found these sessions incredibly useful, particularly in terms of the wealth of new ideas the student employees have brought to our attention. From a communication/outreach standpoint, their feedback is invaluable because they know how students think, where they look for information, and what kinds of information could be better communicated. All of this contributes to the identity of the library on campus and in the lives of our students.
I was thinking about how we might be able to harness the advocacy power of our library student employees. We spend a lot of time bringing them up to speed on various project and initiatives, so they end up being really great library champions. When you connect that with their social nature (in-person and via the web), it seems like the perfect avenue for peer-to-peer information sharing. On more than one occasion, I have spoken to library student employees who have done informal updates about the library within their classes, either at the request of a professor who knows they work there, or in order to correct misinformation that a professor is sharing.
Here’s what I’m thinking: What if there was some kind of library student employee referral system to build on this sort of organic advocacy? For example, library student employee could earn points towards some kind of reward (or dare I say, a raise?!) if they:
- Convinced their professor to invite the librarian to do an information literacy instruction session or general library update
- Directed a student to their subject librarian for a group or individual research appointment
It could be kind of interesting. I see referral systems all the time – at hair and nail salons, when meeting with a new dentist or doctor, when signing up for new web services where if you convince 5 friends to join, you get a reward, etc. And we can see from websites like Yelp and Amazon Reviews that people are anxious to know what others think about a product/service before they are persuaded. Would it be better for a recommendation to visit a librarian to come from a peer than a librarian? Because no matter what we do to seem more approachable, I still think some students are intimidated asking for our help.
I am wondering:
- Has anyone tried this?
- How would professors react to this? Would they be annoyed, thinking it was some sort of interference with their classroom/teaching?
Meeting the incoming freshmen is one of my favorite parts of the fall semester. Despite the fact that they continually make me feel old (the age gap is becoming harder and harder to ignore), it’s rejuvenating to witness their energy, ideas and styles. Learning about their past library experiences and listening to their concerns about the upcoming year are equally impressive, giving me touch-points to base my library spiel/elevator speech on as they stop at the table.
This year, our table hosted a bowl of lollipops (BlowPops are apparently far more desirable than TootsiePops), a handout highlighting our temporary library in Gerhart Hall, a handout highlighting all of the ways they can get in touch with a librarian, giveaways of post-it notes with the library website printed on them, and a display showing pictures of all the subject librarians, methods to Ask A Librarian, and some upcoming library events:
Some interesting things that I observed/learned during the 1.5 hour fair:
- While many students asked about library employment, two students asked about how to volunteer for the library. They said they had volunteered for their library at home and wanted to do the same at college. Work. For free. For the library. How awesome is that?! I quickly recruited them for our student advisory board.
- Eye contact, smiling and saying hello are key to getting people to come to your table!
- Students were impressed when I explained that each major has a subject librarian. They were even more thrilled when I let them know that the subject librarians are familiar with their professors and assignments, and could start them off in the right direction for research.
- Lots of interest in my ear plugs (tiny, size 2 gauges, usually hidden by my hair) – one student said he really wanted to gauge his ears but his mom said she would stop paying his tuition. Yipes! I told him a college education was cooler anyhow.
- More than one student expressed their desire for print books – some for fun reading (asked if we had a popular collection in the temporary library space – yes) and some for studying (“I just like to have the real thing in front of me”).
- Students love post-it notes. Well, anything free, really. And the Orientation Leaders are amazing!
- Some students were sad that they couldn’t go up into the tallest academic building on campus (our old building that’s closed for renovation). I explained that it really wasn’t that awesome in there, detailing the a) fires b) elevator issues c) broken air conditioning d) ghosts.
- “Goth” is still “a thing.” And, they are still super nice.
Overall, an awesome day. How do you welcome students back to campus? What have you observed about the incoming freshmen?
Due to the library renovation taking place at MPOW (you can read more about the project here) the librarians are embedded around campus in different academic buildings. We tried to relocate each subject librarian to be near at least one of the departments they liaise with or, in some cases, in highly student-trafficked buildings. Some goals of the initiative are to improve library visibility to the entire university community, develop more meaningful and effective relationships with faculty, and provide research assistance more closely to the point-of-need for students (before, during, between, after classes, etc).
Another facet of this “experiment within an experiment” is that librarians will be holding regular open office hours – starting with three hours per week. As far as I’m aware, this hasn’t been done at Millersville in the past, but I am very excited to give it a try. It’s one of the many things we are adding to our “suite of services” since we are not staffing a traditional reference desk for the time being. Yes, you heard right, but that’s the topic of another post coming very soon so you’ll have to wait to learn more.
I think one challenge to offering librarian open office hours will be promoting it. It’s not simply a case of “if you build it, they will come.” Teaching faculty have class syllabi where they can list this sort of information and they also have the power of grading on their side. Some things I am doing (or are in the works) to promote my office hours include:
- The creation of this simple landing page which includes my contact information, subject areas, office location, photo and will eventually list my regular open office hours.
- QR codes leading to said landing page on my office door and courtyard-facing window.
- Emailed all faculty in my subject areas with my information, the landing page link, and the QR code inviting them to list it on their course syllabi.
- Will mention office hours in all of the library instruction sessions I teach this fall.
- Will have a sign on my door listing my office hours.
Problem #1: I have not set my hours yet (and have to within a week)! Has anyone tried this and had success or failure with any particular time slots or days? I suppose it depends on the institution, but I am interested in any feedback you have. I emailed an MU colleague and he suggested that late morning and lunch hour-ish tend to be best (between 10:30am-2:30pm). I also have to consider commuter students who have evening classes. Thoughts?
Problem #2: What am I not thinking of in terms of promoting this new initiative? How can I encourage students (or even faculty & staff) to stop by or schedule an appointment? All creative ideas are welcome!
*Note: Open office hours are not the only way we are providing research assistance to the university community during the renovation. I’ll also be doing at least 5 hours/week of virtual research assistance (monitoring phone, text messages, chat/IM & email inquiries) and we’re planning strategic “blasts” of in-person research help during the busiest times of the semester based on past statistics.*
My fifth interview for the Job of a Lifetime (JOAL) column in College & Research Libraries News is now available online! I spoke with Lizz Zitron, outreach services librarian at Carthage College Hedberg Library in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I have been itching to interview someone working as an academic outreach librarian since I started editing this column, since it’s my job title as well! Lizz is doing some very innovative and creative things at her library, including student-run community workshops and Family Fun nights. Check out the interview here:
You can also visit her blog at http://theoutreachlibrarian.com/. I want to thank Lizz for her wonderful interview and for her patience (this column was ready a while back but was bumped due to some publication scheduling issues). Keep up the good work.
Do you have the job of a lifetime? Enjoy & feel free to leave comments!
I have a guest post over at ACRLog today, so check it out if you have a few minutes! I decided to talk about our upcoming renovation project since it’s the thing I’ve been spending the majority of my time on at work lately. As outreach librarian I have been coordinating lots of communication about the project (including its spot in the University Soar to Greatness campaign) as well as the transition and design planning.
By my junior year of college, I knew that I wanted to continue on to graduate school to earn my MS in Library and Information Science. Because I was pretty set with my degree requirements, I completed two library internships during my senior year (at this time I was also working part time at my undergraduate library). I knew that having experience in multiple libraries would give me a solid background to inform my graduate studies. I was also interested to see if the organizational phenomena I observed within one library was typical of all/other libraries (I have found the answer to be yes, more on that later, perhaps).
I was incredibly lucky to find a mentor* at RIT Libraries who has truly been one of the most influential in my life. I spent my time learning about the importance of marketing in libraries, honing my design skills, learning about the inner workings of an academic library (my work space was within the Director’s Suite), working collaboratively and more. That internship helped me make connections with professional librarians, many of whom I am still in touch with through personal friendships and professional endeavors. My internship at RIT helped me to land a part-time staff position there following my undergraduate graduation, a position I held throughout the two years it took me to earn my MLIS online from Syracuse University. My staff position led to a whole new level of learning, and I was able to participate on faculty/staff committees, take the lead on some projects, complete a graduate-level internship working on a digital collection, and offer my opinions as a student and soon-to-be-librarian. Most importantly, my experiences at RIT continued to motivate me to become a librarian. I wanted to be able to contribute and improve on an institution which had offered me (and so many others) opportunities to live a more creative, fun, and intellectually stimulating life.
If I had not sought out this internship opportunity as an undergrad (which was not a requirement, by the way), I highly doubt that I would have achieved the same level of professional success as I have today. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I was approached by a Millersville University student who was interested in doing the same. During the spring of 2008 (only about six months into my tenure-track position here) I supervised my first Outreach Support Library Intern. Amy was in her senior year and planned to apply to library school right after graduating with her BA in English. She stuck to that plan and will graduate this December from Clarion University. I have tried my hardest to remain a mentor to this new librarian and help her along the way just as my mentors have helped me. We’ll be presenting together at the 2010 PaLA Annual Conference this fall, talk weekly about library-related topics, and share professional development opportunities with each other when we find them.
This fall, I am excited to have another intern. Also in his senior year, Mike is considering graduate school as a post-graduation option. One of the things I’m working on with him is a collaborative research project which we hope to have published in a peer-reviewed journal. I think that having such a publication on his resume will benefit him regardless of what graduate program he might end up pursuing. I also just talked to another student who is interested in doing an internship with me in the spring of 2011 and who says he has been planning to go to library school for a few years now.
All of my interns have been student workers in the library, so they have some extra institutional-history. I have created an internship plan of work for each of them, based on the same ideas. I go over the document with the intern and then we both sign and get a copy. I am really making this up as I go, folks… no one ever taught me how to run an internship. One thing that I think is important is that they shadow me both in instruction sessions and during research consultations at the reference desk. I hope that with enough experience, my interns will eventually be able to step in and teach a portion of the session (run a group activity or something) or answer a question at the desk. Having a little bit of experience in those two areas will a) give them something to base their graduate-level discussions on and b) might be the deciding factor for a job (student, GA, staff, etc) where the other candidate has never worked in a library. I also have them do some informational interviews in order to learn about other librarian positions and start recognizing the importance of networking.
But like I said… I am really making this up as I go, trying to remember what was helpful to me and what knowledge I should give them before they go to graduate school. A few questions for the blogosphere:
- There has been a lot of discussion lately on making potential/new LIS graduate students aware of the difficulties of job searching & myths about the graying of the profession. Is this our responsibility? My responsibility as an intern supervisor? The schools’ responsibility (although that seems highly unlikely)? I have tried to be candid with my interns about the job market and outlook… at the same time they’re getting rhetoric from the graduate programs. I am always honest about library-related issues with them, but do I need to actually warn them or attempt to steer them away from the field? It would just be heartbreaking to have to do that to a student who is excited and passionate about getting into librarianship… at the same time, I don’t want them to end up unemployed. What do you think?
- Do you have any feedback on my internship plan of work? I am interested in improving it – for my first intern, I just kind of threw it together, because time was an issue. Now that it looks like this might be a more regular occurrence, I want to make this experience as rewarding for the student as possible. Are there things I’m forgetting or things that have worked for you (as either an intern yourself or an internship supervisor)?
What do we think about undergraduate library internships in general? Are other people doing this at their institutions, either systematically or ad-hoc? Are there resources out there that I should be looking at? Please feel free to share!
* This post is dedicated to Bob Chandler, my first (& favorite) library mentor.